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In Memory of Memory has that trick of feeling both completely original and already classic, and I confidently expect this translation to bring Maria Stepanova a rabid North American fan base on the order of the one she already enjoys in Russia.”
– Elif Batuman, author of The Idiot, nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
An exciting new Russian writer explores terra incognita: the still-living margins of history.
Following the death of her aunt, the narrator of In Memory of Memory is left to sift through an apartment full of faded photographs, old postcards, letters, diaries, and heaps of souvenirs: a withered repository of a century of life in Russia. Carefully reassembled with calm, steady hands, these shards tell the story of how a seemingly ordinary Jewish family somehow managed to survive the myriad persecutions and repressions of the last century.
In dialogue with writers like Roland Barthes, W. G. Sebald, Susan Sontag, and Osip Mandelstam, In Memory of Memory is imbued with rare intellectual curiosity and a wonderfully soft-spoken, poetic voice. Dipping into various forms — essay, fiction, memoir, travelogue, and historical documents — Stepanova assembles a vast panorama of ideas and personalities and offers an entirely new and bold exploration of cultural and personal memory.
War of the Beasts and the Animals is Russian poet Maria Stepanova’s first full English-language collection. Stepanova is one of Russia’s most innovative and exciting poets and thinkers, and founding editor of Colta.ru, an online independent site which has been compared to Huffington Post in its status and importance. Immensely high-profile in Russia, her reputation has lagged behind in the West, but with the 2021 Fitzcarraldo publication of her prize-winning documentary novel In Memory of Memory and her new poetry collection from Bloodaxe this is sure to change.
War of the Beasts and the Animals includes her recent long poems of conflict ‘Spolia’ and ‘War of the Beasts and Animals’, written during the Donbass conflict, as well as a third long poem ‘The Body Returns’, commissioned by Hay International Festival in 2018 to commemorate the Centenary of the First World War. In all three long poems Stepanova’s assured and experimental use of form, her modernist appropriation of poetic texts from around the world and her constant consideration of the way that culture, memory, and contemporary life are interwoven make her work both pleasurable and deeply necessary.
This collection also includes two sequences of poems from her 2015 collection Kireevsky: sequences of ‘weird’ ballads and songs, subtly changed folk and popular songs and poems which combine historical lyricism, and a contemporary understanding of the effects of conflict and trauma. Stepanova uses the ready forms of ballads and songs, but alters them, so they almost appear to be refracted in moonlit water. The forms seem recognisable, but the words are oddly fragmented and suggestive, they weave together well-known refrains of songs, apparently familiar images, subtle half-nods to films and music.
Maria Stepanova is one of the most powerful and distinctive voices of Russia’s first post-Soviet literary generation. An award-winning poet and prose writer, she has also founded a major platform for independent journalism. Her verse blends formal mastery with a keen ear for the evolution of spoken language. As Russia’s political climate has turned increasingly repressive, Stepanova has responded with engaged writing that grapples with the persistence of violence in her country’s past and present. Some of her most remarkable recent work as a poet and essayist considers the conflict in Ukraine and the debasement of language that has always accompanied war.
The Voice Over brings together two decades of Stepanova’s work, showcasing her range, virtuosity, and creative evolution. Stepanova’s poetic voice constantly sets out in search of new bodies to inhabit, taking established forms and styles and rendering them into something unexpected and strange. Recognizable patterns of ballads, elegies, and war songs are transposed into a new key, infused with foreign strains, and juxtaposed with unlikely neighbors. As an essayist, Stepanova engages deeply with writers who bore witness to devastation and dramatic social change, as seen in searching pieces on W. G. Sebald, Marina Tsvetaeva, and Susan Sontag. Including contributions from ten translators, The Voice Over shows English-speaking readers why Stepanova is one of Russia’s most acclaimed contemporary writers.
I would advise everyone to read her book…She was working with the concept of the survivors of the second or third generation, those who didn’t see the catastrophic ones of the 20th century by their own eyes, but a strange thing, a strange trick is happening to them. That is something that I do relate to, even if my family wasn’t directly involved in the [tragedies], you are suddenly noticing that the lives of your grandmothers, the times past are becoming much more important, much more vivid, much more insistent than your own little life.
Can we remember other people’s memories? The Generation of Postmemory argues we can: that memories of traumatic events live on to mark the lives of those who were not there to experience them. Children of survivors and their contemporaries inherit catastrophic histories not through direct recollection but through haunting postmemories & multiply mediated images, objects, stories, behaviors, and affects passed down within the family and the culture at large.
In these new and revised critical readings of the literary and visual legacies of the Holocaust and other, related sites of memory, Marianne Hirsch builds on her influential concept of postmemory. The book’s chapters, two of which were written collaboratively with the historian Leo Spitzer, engage the work of postgeneration artists and writers such as Art Spiegelman, W.G. Sebald, Eva Hoffman, Tatana Kellner, Muriel Hasbun, Anne Karpff, Lily Brett, Lorie Novak, David Levinthal, Nancy Spero and Susan Meiselas. Grappling with the ethics of empathy and identification, these artists attempt to forge a creative postmemorial aesthetic that reanimates the past without appropriating it. In her analyses of their fractured texts, Hirsch locates the roots of the familial and affiliative practices of postmemory in feminism and other movements for social change. Using feminist critical strategies to connect past and present, words and images, and memory and gender, she brings the entangled strands of disparate traumatic histories into more intimate contact. With more than fifty illustrations, her text enables a multifaceted encounter with foundational and cutting edge theories in memory, trauma, gender, and visual culture, eliciting a new understanding of history and our place in it.
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